The most important way to deal with agitation is to find and treat the cause. Agitation may lead to an increased risk of suicide and other forms of violence.
After treating the cause, the following measures can reduce agitation:
A calm environment
Enough lighting during the day and darkness at night
Medications such as benzodiazepines, and in some cases, antipsychotics
Plenty of sleep
Don't physically hold back an agitated person, if possible. This usually makes the problem worse. Only use restraints if the person is at risk of harming themselves or others, and there is no other way to control the behavior.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your health care provider for agitation that:
Lasts a long time
Is very severe
Occurs with thoughts or actions of hurting oneself or others
Occurs with other, unexplained symptoms
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will take a medical history and do a physical examination.
To help better understand your agitation, your health care provider may ask the following questions:
Are you more talkative than usual or do you feel pressure to keep talking?
Do you find yourself doing purposeless activities (e.g., pacing, hand wringing)?
Park JM, Park L, Prager LM. Emergency psychiatry. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 87.
Rossi J, Swan MC, Isaacs ED. The violent or agitated patient. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2010;28:235-256.
Inouye SK. Delirium or acute mental status change in the older patient. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 27.
Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; and David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.